Once an admirer, Nassim Taleb now says Bitcoin is worth zero


MUMBAI: Naseem Taleb, renowned author of highly-regarded books such as Black Swan and Skin in the Game, believes that the true value of a Bitcoin is no higher than a zero.

In a paper titled ‘Bitcoin, Currencies and Bubbles’, Taleb said: “In its current version, in spite of the hype, Bitcoin failed to satisfy the notion of ‘currency without government’ (it proved to not even be a currency at all).

The noted author said that Bitcoin can neither be a short-term or long-term store of value, cannot operate as a reliable hedge against inflation, and “worst of all does not constitute, not even remotely, a tail protection vehicle for catastrophic episodes”.

The former admirer of the cryptocurrency asserted that the true value of a Bitcoin is no higher than zero. “Gold and other precious metals are largely maintenance free, do not degrade over a historical horizon, and do not require maintenance to refresh their physical properties over time. Cryptocurrencies require a sustained amount of interest in them,” Taleb wrote in his paper.

After a trailblazing run for much of 2020 and better part of 2021 so far, Bitcoin has undergone a sharp fall over the past two months triggered by China’s crackdown on cryptocurrency miners and backlash from famous enthusiast Tesla Founder Elon Musk.

After hitting a record high of $62,741 in April, Bitcoin has given up more than 50 per cent over the past two months and is now vulnerable to falling closer to its high hit during the 2017-18 bull market of around $19,000.

The surge in the price of the cryptocurrency over the past 14 months had largely been driven by new interest institutional investors such as hedge funds and certain corporations like Tesla and MicroStrategy.

Much of the interest in the coin from institutional investors rested on the notion that Bitcoin can act as a true hedge against inflation, better even then gold in some opinions. Taleb believes that for a currency to be a hedge against inflation it should have minimum variance against a basket of goods and services, a quality Bitcoin lacks.

Taleb’s paper is likely to further ignite debate in the global investment world on the true role of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In India, cryto enthusiasts often call Bitcoin an asset, not a currency. If that is the case, Taleb’s paper may give them a headache.

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